It is just about mid-September–which I know for most of you is the beginning of autumn, but for your friends in Florida it’s just another variation of summer. I keep waiting for those tricksy autumn feels to creep over me, but…they’re missing in action this year. Typically there are not much in the way of seasonal shifts here, but I start feeling a powerful nostalgia for a place and time in my life where for a time, autumn did make a glorious appearance.
I have written on these feelings before, but ultimately, they are a trap. The past is another country and for the most part, that locale was not the same as the memories you now conjure of your time there. You must be careful not to get snared in those recollections and reminiscences; they are a tangle of rose-tinted half-truths and perfect fictions, and I always have to remind myself that hidden in the shadows of those early autumn sunsets were monstrous things that crunched those lovely fallen leaves under their beastly feet as they stalked and terrorized me.
I suppose it could be due to the state of the world which is quite literally burning to the ground around us in some places right now, or perhaps because I have been back in Florida for nearly a decade now and the reflections of my time spent in autumn country have begun to flicker and fade, but I’m not falling for nostalgia’s traps and tricks this year. Perhaps I have become immune to them, or I’ve got other things on my mind, or maybe those feelings don’t exist anymore, but whatever the reason, it’s now just late summer in the southeast, and there are no more ghosts of autumns past to haunt and confuse me. An endless droning cicada song that enters even my dreams and the near-constant threat of massive hurricanes every weekend– well, at least they haven’t gone anywhere! I guess some things never change.
But you know me. All of this was of course a lead-up to show you my new sweater.
I know it’s going to be several months before we experience anything near “sweater weather”, that one marvelous 59° day in January or February, but I fell in love with this voluminous, cocoonimous thing when I saw pre-orders opening up for it over at We Crowing Hens, and had to snag one for myself anyway. It’s possible they are already sold out at this point, but I will tell you that I like my midnight-crone-cottage-core cardigans really roomy, and so I purchased an XL…and I think I could have gone down a size. Maybe two! So this is a little swimmy on me, but I think its oversized aspect maybe adds maximum coziness, so in the end, though it wouldn’t work for this video, it is pretty perfect for me.
Pictured with my new house slippers, which I have recently learned that I cannot live without. My partner is tearing up all of the carpeting in the house and my feet don’t care very much for sensation of walking on bare concrete. I had a previous pair, but they wore out and aren’t available anymore. The old ones were much more adorable, but these are kinda cute too, albeit in a granny-with-curlers-in-her-hair kinda way.
In terms of another kind of nostalgia, when I think of summertime afternoons, I often hearken back to when I was a child in elementary school, ten or eleven years old. I would spend every day from about 11:00am until dinnertime, stretched out on the sticky vinyl cushions of a rotted old chaise lounge on our screened porch, reading every lurid paperback that I could get my hands on. This memory is a bit rose-tinted as well (Florida mid-afternoons in late July are brutal when it comes to heat and humidity!) but I’m still convinced that summer doesn’t get any better than sweaty thighs embossed with the imprint of cheap porch furniture, endless pitchers of Crystal Light Lemonade and grotty, used bookstore copies of paperbacks from hell.
Lately, though, the thought of sitting still has got me awfully antsy. I’m reading (or attempting to read) a wonderfully perfect short story collection, Ghost Summer by Tananarive Due, and it is SO GOOD. It ticks every box for what I want in a summer read. A vast spectrum of supernatural business, characters that I care about, writing that is emotive and nuanced but not super dense or difficult. It’s got everything! But I can’t sit with it for very long. I want to be doing things. I want to be planting, growing, harvesting, chopping, mixing, baking! My partner says there’s a word in Icelandic for this, it’s a mood having to do with movement. He says I’ve got the “stuð” –which I believe is pronounced like “stoothe”–and though if you look it up, it apparently translates to “shock,” I like its colloquial connotations.
Anyway! I’ve got the stuð and I want to do the things! One of these things began when I got it in my head back at the beginning of the summer that I was going to learn how to make sourdough. It took a few months of trial and error, but I finally got a beautifully robust starter up and running, and a few weekends ago I baked two beautiful loaves. They were not perfect (they could have used more salt and the crust didn’t stay crisp and crackly for very long) but after 20+ years of bread failures, I finally made a loaf that is neither a brick nor a doorstop. These sourdough blobules were major kitchenwitchery breakthroughs for me!
I think everyone who attempts sourdough finally has some sort of eureka! moment, or that one recipe that finally steered them in the right direction. For me it was the Pro Home Cooks guy. If you’ve been on a similar journey, I’d love to hear how you finally arrived at something decent!
One thing I didn’t love about the whole process though, is that as part of feeding your starter, it required you to discard a portion of that. I didn’t like how wasteful that felt. Naturally it turns out that people have felt similarly for a very long time and the internet is full of recipes and suggestions of things to do with your leftover discard. Above I have included photos of the few ideas that I have been playing around with, and if I am being perfectly honest, I think I like making these type things more than the actual sourdough bread, itself!
From the top: crackers // crumpets // sandwich loves.
Not pictured, but which I made a million times at this point, is basically a fry bread type thing. Heat some butter or oil in a heated pan, gloop your starter into the sizzling fat and swirl it around, sort of like you might do with a pancake. Top with a handful of chopped scallions or chives and a sprinkle of salt. Flip it over after a minute or so and brown the other side. Serve with your lunch/dinner soup or salad. It’s super tasty and a quick way to use your discard if you’re feeding the greedy starter every day.
Other things I have made recently:
Chili oil. We’ve been eating a lot of frozen dumplings and dim sum lately and it occurred to me that some chili oil would be a perfect accompaniment! I used Joshua Weissman’s recipe, but I’m fairly certain you couldn’t go wrong with anyone’s recipe for a from-scratch version of this stuff. I have also used this guy’s recipe for chicken tikka masala and it’s freaking fantastic. The only time I have ever made this dish and it’s even tasted slightly like it’s supposed to. I know Weissman is a little bit obnoxious, but this recipe is worth sitting through his particular brand of goofiness for.
Dill Pickle Pasta Salad from the Southern Vegan cookbook. This recipe is ingenious. I mean basically it’s just a regular pasta salad recipe, but it’s 90% dill pickle, and therein lies the brilliance. Pickles are always the best part of every recipe that they’re in! But I am a hard-core pickle lover, so your mileage may vary. This is the same person who runs the Rabbit & Wolves blog, and pretty much everything they ever post about sounds delicious.
Bath salts. I don’t have a recipe for this, but I ran out of the jar of fancy CBD salts from Lord Jones, and lordy, I was not about to pay $50 to replace them, no way no how! I don’t think CBD does anything for me, anyway. I don’t take proper bath-baths, because I hate getting wet, but I love all of the trappings and rituals of the bathing experience…so …what’s a water-averse weirdo to do? As it happens, I don’t mind dipping my toes in, so I just give myself super-extra-fancy foot baths! Yes, all of the bath bombs and bubbles and soaks and salts that I buy are for my feet. This is a mixture of epsom salts, pink Himalayan salt crystals, powdered coconut milk, some dried lavender leaves and buds that I grew myself (before my plant died, RIP lavender) and a bit of lavender essential oil. I added both the leaves and the flowers because I think they smell very different–they petals have that distinctive sharp, astringent scent, but the leaves are sweeter, almost a powdery vanilla-hay.
All the plants! All the clippings and cuttings and new plant bbs! So far the mortality rate seems pretty low, so if I am becoming a crazy plant lady, well…at least I am not a murderous one! I actually bought some clippings off of Etsy (what a time to be alive, right?) and I had pretty good luck with them, believe it or not.
If you’re curious about the bud vases, I found them here.
Things I have really enjoyed/am enjoying lately:
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. Ok, wow. So, I actually loved this. My partner cringed all the way through it, experiencing uncomfortable levels of fremdschämen. But I adored this silly story and all of the costumes and characters and music, and I could watch it again tonight. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack nonstop and I and can’t get through Husavik – My Home Town without uncontrollable hiccupping sobs.
And The Flight of Dragons, which is something I never saw as a kid, but it was really pretty and a fun watch. Also: we are watching Lovecraft Country, which is nuts and I am really enjoying (but whyyy is Marilyn Manson in the soundtrack) and I have started just What We Do In The Shadows season 2. I am already having horny dreams about Guillermo.
I will end this missive by mentioning a handful of weird obsessions I am currently indulging in. While it is not strange to see me fixating on fragrance, it is a bit odd for me to decide on a holy grail-type scent, one that I will elevate above all others and say “that’s it! this is The One! FOREVER!” But Bergamot, Orange Blosson, and Vetiver from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab is that scent. I am not quite ready to talk about it yet, all I can say with certainty is that it smells like painful revelations and forking life paths, and the bittersweet but beautiful clarity that comes with all of that.
No. 2 is that I am a bit preoccupied with nude lipsticks at the moment, which is strange because I thought I liked outlandish lip colors, greens and blues, etc., and well, also…I don’t actually wear that much makeup. But again, I think I have found my holy grail and I am a bit embarrassed to share that it’s a Kylie Jenner lippie called Commando. Ugh! But it’s perfect! You can’t see it very well, but I’m wearing it in the perfume video I recently uploaded to my YouTube channel.
Lastly, and bringing it full circle, I suppose, is that while I am not feeling nostalgic for autumns in New Jersey, I am yearning for autumn aesthetics in general. Which is what led to me placing an order for Bath and Body Works candles. What! I know! I’ve got stupid-expensive tastes when it comes to certain things, I can’t even remember when I last had a B&BW or White Barn candle in my home. But you best believe I’ve got some PSL and Perfect Autumn candles in my cart right now.
Make fun if you like! I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I’m also laughing at myself a bit right now. But you know what? Either way, we’re having a laugh, and considering how I’m usually feeling at this time of year? I call it a win.